China official tells Web firms to control content

BEIJING (AP) ? A top Communist Party official has told China’s Internet companies to tighten control over material online.

The order by the Chinese capital’s party secretary, Liu Qi, comes as Beijing cracks down on dissent and tries to block the rise of Middle East-style protests. It followed a visit by Liu this week to Sina Corp., which operates a popular microblog service.

A report by the party newspaper Beijing Daily said Liu told Internet companies to “firmly prevent the spread of fake and harmful information.”

China’s leaders encourage Web use for business and education but are uneasy about its potential to spread dissent.

That is especially the case after social networking sites played a key role in protests that brought down governments in Egypt and Tunisia.